The church of Saint Mary of the Rosary (La chiesa di Santa Maria del Rosario)

Santa Maria del Rosario (St. Mary of the Rosary), commonly known as I Gesuati, is an 18th-century Dominican church in the Sestiere of Dorsoduro, on the Giudecca canal in Venice, northern Italy. The classical style building has a well-lit interior and is exceptional in preserving its original layout and Rococo decoration intact. The church and almost all its sculpture and paintings were created within a thirty-year period: construction began in 1725, the church was consecrated in 1743, and the last sculptural decoration was in place by 1755.

Almost all the sculpture in the church is the work of Giovan Maria Morlaiter, a sculptor from over the Alps, whom Hugh Honour describes as “one of the ablest sculptors in eighteenth century Venice”[23] and Semenzato as “the most brilliant interpreter of the rococo in Venetian sculpture” adding that “His work shows great dynamism” and “an inexhaustible felicity of invention”. There is more of his work in the church than anywhere else in Venice.

Monks from Sienna from the order of The Blessed Giovanni Colombino established themselves here in 1392. In 1423 they built an oratory and cloister dedicated to Saint Jerome.  (They had previously occupied the nearby church of Sant’Agnese.) A proper church and monastery were built here by the Poor Gesuati order (as they now called themselves) from 1494, consecrated 1524 and dedicated to Our Lady of the Visitation. The order was suppressed in 1668 and in 1669 the Dominicans bought the place and got Giorgio Massari to build the present, much larger, church, beginning work in 1726, to the east of the old church, and finishing it in 1743. The newer church became a parish church when the order was suppressed in 1815, to replace the nearby suppressed churches of San Vio and San Gregorio.

The church
This was architect Massari’s first major commission in Venice. The niches on the façade (a heavier and more theatrical reflection of the façade of the Redentore church opposite) contain large statues depicting the four virtues. A stone relief of the dead Christ supported by two Angels set into the side wall of the church (seen to the right in the photo right) may be from the original church.

Interior
The interior, like the façade, is modelled on the Redentore. It consists of an aisleless nave with six connecting side chapels, three either side, full of exceptional 18th Century art. The effect of the walls and detailing is pale grey, getting darker for the domed chancel, with it’s unplain tabernacle by Massari.

Art highlights
This church is a treat for Tiepolo fans, with a fine altarpiece in the first chapel on the right depicting the Madonna and Three (female Dominican)
Saints, and some Dominic-related ceiling paintings well worth the neck ache, or the easier perusal using the handily provided (and precisely
shaped) floor-standing mirror. Also two by Piazzetta, a good one by Sebastiano Ricci, depicting Saints Pius V, Aquinas and Peter Martyr, and a badly restored Tintoretto Crucifixion which came from the nearby Santa Maria della Visitazione.


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